Excerpt "Where are we going?" Danielle asked, trying to keep up while dodging overgrown roots and random rocks in her way. Yvette was obviously determined, and seemed to know what she was doing.
"Shh. We're almost there."
After a few more minutes of stepping on sticks and leaves, Yvette pushed on a low-lying branch. Behind it was a small field with a huge oak tree in the middle. On one of the lower branches there was a tire swing; there was no breeze, so the swing just hung there, not moving at all.
"Oh, my God," Danielle cried. "I've been here before! This was my alone spot. I'd forgotten all about it." She walked around to the other side of the tree and grabbed a piece of the small limb that had been sticking out. She hauled herself up onto the first branch, and then climbed a few more branches. She sat in a nook of the tree and looked down at Yvette, who seemed so much smaller from this angle. "This was where I sat. I was convinced that no one could find me here. Until one day, not too long after my parents died, Nate did find me. It turns out he knew that I came here all along. After that, my spot didn't seem so special anymore, so I stopped coming."
Yvette started to climb up after her, but Danielle was worried that she would slip in her sandals. "Stop. I'll come down." Danielle made her way back down the tree, but on the last branch she lost her footing. She fell backwards out of the tree and landed with a thud right on her ass.
The sound of laughter preceded the sound of Yvette's footsteps on the grass. "Are you okay?"
Danielle looked at Yvette and was greeted with a big grin and an outstretched hand.
Taking the hand, Danielle pulled Yvette down on top of her and kissed her neck. "I'm fine. It'll probably hurt like hell tomorrow, but I don't think I broke anything. Luckily, I have enough padding back there."
"Shut up," Yvette retorted. "You're so fucking scrawny. It's a wonder you didn't snap in half."
It was Danielle's turn to laugh, but once again her thoughts turned toward the end of summer and the fact that Yvette was leaving Carter Lake -- was leaving her. She sobered up and tried to roll away from Yvette, but Yvette was still on top of her and not making any signs toward moving.
"Nope," Yvette said. "You need to talk to me. Tell me what's wrong."
Danielle sighed; she didn't see any other way to avoid talking to her. "You're leaving! Your classes start in just a couple weeks. You'll forget all about me at your big, fancy school."
Yvette grabbed Danielle's chin between her forefinger and thumb. She titled Danielle's head until she was forced to look her in the eyes. "I'm not going anywhere."
"Wait... what? But I heard--"
"Whatever you heard was wrong. I don't know who you've been talking to, but they don't have all the facts. I'm not going back to North Carolina. I'm staying right here."
"But, why?" Now Danielle felt terrible. She didn't want Yvette to leave, of course, but neither did she want her to give up her entire college education just for her.
"My mom pulled me out," Yvette explained. "Well, technically, she just stopped paying for my education. I was dating a girl there. Nothing serious, but still, we managed to have some fun. And somehow, my parents found out. I can't really prove who said anything, but I have my suspicions. I think it was this girl at school, Heather, who was jealous that I got picked to lead the freshman volleyball team. Anyway, once my mom found out, she cut off all my funding to school. Something about how I 'disgraced her in front of her friends.' You know, the people with wads of cash and nothing better to do. The next thing I knew, we were moving here. To the middle of fucking nowhere. Though, as it turns out, is not really all that bad." Yvette smiled down at Danielle, which made Danielle feel like she had just won the lottery.
Danielle grinned at Yvette, but then another thought crossed her mind and she bit her lower lip. "But... you're old enough to not have your parents drag you around. Why not just stay there?"
Yvette's smiled turned wry, and she climbed off of Danielle and sat next to her. "My mom has tried to control every aspect of my life since I was born. Dad was away so much that I'm not sure he remembered my name half the time. And the times he was around, he didn't seemed to care. I wasn't allowed to drive until after I graduated high school. While they'd never really denied me anything as a kid, they never just gave me any cash, either. I have a savings account from my grandmother, but it's not enough for tuition."
"Have you ever considered just earning the money yourself? You know, get a job."
All that statement got was an eye-roll from Yvette; apparently that wasn't an option for her. It was unfathomable to Danielle that an adult -- even a young one -- wouldn't know how to take care of herself. She tried her hardest not to rely on Carol and Nate, and as soon as she was old enough she took on the part-time job at the bookstore. After she graduated, she switched to full time and had been there ever since. One day she might go to college, but it wasn't in the cards for her just yet. Plus, she didn't really know what she wanted to do as a career.
Danielle opened her mouth to speak again, but Yvette had moved right in front of her. She leaned in close and kissed Danielle. "Don't worry," she whispered. "I'm not leaving you."